I am autistic, I am an addict, I am mentally ill

As self-advocates, we are often met with suggestions of how we should discuss ourselves. It’s deeply frustrating because it suggests that we have forgotten our own humanity, but unsurprisingly, we do not need to be reminded that we are people.

You will hear me use identity First language a lot. This is not because I have forgotten my personhood, but because these things encompass a huge part of my identity.

I am autistic, I am an addict, I am mentally ill (in fact previously psychotic).

All three of these things lend a great deal of definition to how I perceive and interact with the world. They define a core part of my psyche, and to deny that means to deny a huge portion of what it means to be me.

Being autistic affects how I relate to people and experience the world. Being an addict affects how I socialise. My psychotic features show me how malleable my reality is.

I am all these things (and more). I am disabled by these things and enriched by them. It’s okay for these things to be a part of my identity. By the sum of their parts, they make me into the person that I am today.

I spent a long time trying to deny the profound effect that these things have on my person, but you can only live in denial for so long. In order to grow and change as a person, I have had to accept these parts of me.

If you are like me, it’s likely that people have tried to convince you that parts of your identity are separate and removable. Perhaps using euphemisms such as “special needs” and “differently abled”.

I suspect that if you are like me, you find this deeply invalidating and frustrating.

When we embrace ourselves, our total selves, and stop trying to separate out our parts like ingredients in a cake, we can appreciate the beauty in our diversity (and your diversity IS beautiful).

When we allow ourselves to accept the things that make us individuals, we add to that beauty. We are a tapestry of vivid hypercolour, with each stitch connected to the next.

Stand proud in your identity, and don’t let people tell you that it is wrong. I am me, and that is beautiful.

Published by David Gray-Hammond

David Gray-Hammond is an Autistic consultant and trainer, educating on the topics of Autistic experience, mental health, and drug and alcohol use. He has several years experience in this area as well as personal lived experience. You can find out more about his consultancy services at www.dghneurodivergentconsultancy.co.uk

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